The question How common are firearms in USA exactly was put on hold today as being 'too broad.' However, I didn't see any comments from any of the users who voted to close explaining what was too broad about the question. Before it was closed, the question had about a dozen upvotes and also had a couple of highly upvoted (and an accepted) answer. The specific question asked was

So I'm wondering, in open-carry states, can you see people carrying handguns in their belts?

Personally, I don't see how this could be reasonably construed as having "too many possible answers" (assuming that by 'answers' we mean "reasonably correct answers") or that "good answers would be too long for this format." Considering the question already had a couple of highly-upvoted answers (one of which was accepted) and neither of which was long, it seems that neither of these descriptions applies.

The only thing I can see is that the title doesn't really match the question being asked very well (the question is specifically about open carry, not firearms in general, and it isn't really asking for exact figures.) I have proposed an edit to the title to fix this.

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    Reirab, did you really want answers to this, or are you planning on defensively passive-aggressively attacking anyone who answers? – CGCampbell May 14 '15 at 17:34
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    @CGCampbell I didn't intend to attack anyone in any way; sorry if I came off that way. Yes, I did want answers to the question. I didn't want to assume why people were voting to close, since no one commented saying why they closed (or, if they did, I somehow overlooked it.) I was hoping that whatever concerns led to the close votes could be resolved so that the question could be reopened, since it does seem like a useful question to those who wish to visit the U.S. Apparently lots of people agreed, given the upvotes on the question and its answers. – reirab May 14 '15 at 21:04
  • @reirab, No. We differ on that point. An expression of public curiosity (implied by question votes) does not automatically mean something is within the group's charter. – Gayot Fow May 14 '15 at 22:16

My vote to close as too broad was simply due to the OP not identifying where in the US he would be traveling. While he chose not to identify his country of origin, I could reasonably hypothesize it is a Scandinavian country. (I say this because of his chosen identity spelling, with the fancy Scandinavian-ish O). I may be wrong, but in reality, it doesn't really matter. Chances are very good it is a European country, and one thing I learned many years ago, is that Europeans who have never traveled to the US simply do not comprehend its immensity. While Russia may be larger, one does not usually travel to Siberia.

As has been stated by others, there are many different states, each with it's own gun laws (and several cities with differing ones as well). Where I live is open carry (with licensed concealed carry). There are also a lot of Federal buildings and land here. Not many open-carry gun enthusiasts carry, nor openly. Many of my associates have licenses for concealed, however.

Where I was raised is also open-carry, and yes, you will see firearms everywhere. On belts, on gun racks, behind the doors, in shoulder holsters.

If you're here during the summer months, depending on where you are, you may also see a National Guard unit going to, or coming from "Summer Drill" carrying large weapons. All police officers carry. There are many armed guards in and around certain buildings.

Many other places you'll not see a single firearm.

All of what I have said, to me, simply adds up to "too broad to answer for everywhere every time. While you have said we should be able to "sum up for most of the US, that simply is not true. I believe you when you say you've visited many places in the US. I don't believe you noticed every person open carrying weapons. A properly carried weapon isn't noticed. I'm not talking about concealed carry either. I can wear my pistol, in its holster on my belt, and 99 out of 100 people won't ever even notice it.

What wasn't asked, nor answered, if I recall correctly, is that the original OP need not fear legal open-carriers. (I'm not saying he/she shouldn't fear them, because I cannot choose what he fears for him) I'm saying the people who choose to open-carry firearms legally, simply are not going to be the ones who may cause him harm. It's the criminals he needs fear, and they, by and large, do not open-carry until actively committing a crime.

So, you asked why, and that is my why. There are too many distinct laws and areas to be able to "sum up the entirety of the US" so that one single answer is correct, except to say just that: it depends where you will be visiting.

The last thing I would say here, is that a hold, or closure, does not mean the question will disappear, usually. If the OP would edit it to show where he intends to visit, I would be happy to be the first to Vote to Reopen.

  • Good answer, thanks. The OP did say in a comment that he wasn't concerned about seeing police/guards/etc. carrying holstered pistols, though he probably should have said that in the question itself to clear things up a bit. I do agree with almost all of your observations. Would you agree, though, that seeing people (other than police/guards) open carry in areas frequented by tourists is unlikely? While that's still somewhat vaguely-defined, it might be more precisely answerable than the question as it stands now. – reirab May 15 '15 at 2:31
  • I would, yes. Agree with what you said. – CGCampbell May 15 '15 at 2:34
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    Also, I complete agree with you that there's no need to fear people carrying legally. I'm quite pro-2A myself. There were some comments to that effect on the question, but, as you said, it wasn't what was asked, which is why the answers mostly didn't address it (and, of course, that would be largely off-topic here anyway.) I thought the OP did a reasonable job of saying that it was just a personal reservation based on what he's used to seeing at home, rather than implying that there's actually anything inherently wrong with carrying. – reirab May 15 '15 at 2:47
  • By the way, thanks for pointing out that 'open carry' still doesn't necessarily mean that it will be (or is even likely to be) noticed. I had overlooked that distinction, but it's actually quite important to what the OP seemed to be asking about. In particular, he seemed to be wanting to know how like it was he would see openly-carried firearms, not necessarily exactly how common they are. I may try to edit the question again to make all of this a little more clear and, hopefully, once I have a bit more time in a day or two. Or, if someone else wants to before then, go for it. – reirab May 17 '15 at 19:13
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    It’s not even exactly the immensity, so much as the diversity. In terms of cultural variation, the US is more comparable to Europe as a whole (or at least to major regions of it) than to any single European country. A question like “How common is smoking in restaurants in Europe?” would surely be seen as too broad. – PLL May 22 '15 at 16:05
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    @JoeBlow Of course it does. How many non-police officers will you see open carrying a weapon in a city/state where doing so is illegal? Most probably zero. How many in the average open-carry legal area? Most probably zero. How many would you see (if you pay attention) where I live? Most probably something more than zero. Where I'm from? Most definitely more than zero (because we have several people who do so, every day of the week.) Hence: too broad. All the OP had to do was say: i.e. Lost Angeles and Lost Vega$ – CGCampbell May 24 '15 at 12:53

My vote is based on the fact that there are (too) many diversities among state laws which render this question too broad to answer. Even with the scope of the question being narrowed to open-carry, I feel this objection still stands.

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    The question wasn't about state law, though, but rather about likelihood of seeing people carrying openly in public. I've lived in the U.S for nearly 30 years, live in an open-carry state, and have traveled to most of the others at one point or another, but I almost never actually see anyone other than police carrying openly in public. This seems sufficiently uniform across the U.S., regardless of state laws, that I don't feel the question is too broad at all. The question isn't whether it is legal, but whether it is common, and the answer to that is actually pretty uniform. – reirab May 13 '15 at 18:52
  • There are, of course, exceptions to every rule and I'm sure that there are some small towns (especially when you get very near the Mexican border) where open carry is more common, but these are places that a tourist from out of country (or even from within the country, for that matter) is very unlikely to visit. For 99%+ of the U.S., including most of every state, the answer to this question is simply that you're unlikely to see open carry in public by anyone except police carrying holstered pistols. – reirab May 13 '15 at 18:58
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    It looks like 4 of the 5 people who voted to close don't actually live in the U.S., so that might explain the misconceptions. – reirab May 13 '15 at 19:01
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    @reirab, why would where a person lives matter one way or another? – Gayot Fow May 14 '15 at 22:17
  • "The question wasn't about state law, though, but rather about likelihood of seeing people carrying openly in public." - indeed, it's just that simple. – Fattie Jul 5 '15 at 6:33

I did not vote to close the question and probably would not have. Like yourself, I feel that the quality of answers and the sheer number of up-votes should count for something.

That said, DCTLib commented almost immediately

Where exactly are you planning to go? The answer to this question will vary on the state.

And that comment was also up-voted many times. It seems to me that it clearly indicates one way in which the question can be deemed too broad and I don't think it's fair to demand that each and every voter post a similar comment themselves.

If there were no comment (at all), it would be another story.

  • Yes, I saw that, but I wasn't sure if that was what prompted the close votes, since that user was not one of the close votes and there's no way to see who actually upvoted the comment. I agree that I wouldn't expect everyone who casts a close vote to comment. – reirab May 15 '15 at 18:26
  • "The answer to this question will vary on the state." It utterly does not vary "by state" - and it's a silly thing to ask. – Fattie May 24 '15 at 10:51
  • @JoeBlow Joe, please read the wiki page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_carry_in_the_United_States and you will see you are wrong. When you are ready, if you are honorable, we will accept your apology for calling all of us "silly" and "farcical" and "bizarre" ... – CGCampbell Jul 5 '15 at 2:22
  • Hi CG. I can only direct you to the answers on the OP by reirab and JonathonR which, simply and easily, explain and give a feel for the very simple questions "How common is open carry of firearms in the USA?" and "So I'm wondering, in open-carry states, can you see people carrying handguns in their belts?" (the trivial and obvious answers are "every cop has a gun" and "it's not like in the movies, you will rarely or ever see an open carry") cont... – Fattie Jul 5 '15 at 5:29
  • .. I appreciate you are making a fine, arcane, observation that in some very specific - neighbourhood - in the US there is more crime than in others. But the idea of closing the question on "broad" for that reason is not sensible. Really, I think it's just politically motivated. Note that if I asked, for example "Are people in NYC so incomprehensibly lame and behind the times that they still think nightclubs are lol 'cool'?" the answer would be, very simply .. "Yes.". SURE you could go on about how in some specific blocks people are only 10 not 40 years behind the times. – Fattie Jul 5 '15 at 5:31
  • One could close any question as too broad by invoking specific, ultra-local concerns. I do apologise if you found my language rowdy, but those adjectives (directed at the concept of closing such a simple question ... not directed at any person) seem appropriate. – Fattie Jul 5 '15 at 5:33

I voted to close the question. It was in the review queue and I try to check the queue periodically.

I concluded that it was too broad because the USA is about 5 time zones and it's possible to see just about anything. You can see people getting murdered on the street in LiveLeak for example. If you visit around San Bernardino County, you'll see people milling about with visible firearms. Same thing in Klan country; if you go off the beaten track in Spartanburg County you will also see people sporting visible firearms. Those two places are three time zones apart.

Personal experience: If you go wandering around in Harlan County in places you are not meant to be, you'll not only see some firearms you might get to see them drawn, locked and loaded.

Moreover, your question was a binary question where a single word ('yes' or 'no') is the answer. An yes/no question over an entire continent isn't going to work. Somebody is supposed to know 50 different sets of rules? Too broad. Too many answers...

Despite the closure... The question has been answered and has been accepted by the OP so presumably it's all come to a happy ending.


Given the nature of your comments in this thread I think it's clear that you have a strong attachment to questions about firearms in the US. Your question here in META has been answered in good faith by those who opted to disclose their reasons. Challenging their rationales in protracted comments describing firearm laws in the US is unlikely to stimulate improvements to the site. The downside risk for you is that people may be reluctant to engage with you in META because there is no benefit to doing so.

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    It wasn't actually my question; I just thought it was odd that it would get closed already having an accepted answer and a couple of highly-voted ones. I'm very aware of the size of the U.S., as I live here and have been to much of it at one point or another. (btw: It's actually about 8 time zones, counting HI, AL, and PR, more if you count Guam, Samoa, etc.) In general, however, open carry is not common at all in the U.S., especially in areas tourists are likely to visit. The question was whether it's likely to see open carry, not whether it's possible. It's possible, of course, but unlikely – reirab May 14 '15 at 0:57
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    Regarding '50 different sets of rules,' legal does not equal common. Open carry is legal in quite a lot of the U.S. and that does vary widely and would be too broad as a single question. However, this question was about whether it's common, which it's not even where it is legal. I live in one of the most gun-friendly areas in the country where I regularly hear gunshots (deer hunting) from my house, but I almost never see anyone carrying openly, either here or elsewhere in the U.S., aside from police carrying sidearms. – reirab May 14 '15 at 1:05
  • @reirab, I understand you're upset. The decision to close was made using the information available at the time and NOT using the information you are presenting here after the fact. You can escalate your complaint to the team at Stack Overflow and seek a more satisfactory resolution. – Gayot Fow May 14 '15 at 3:32
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    I'm not particularly upset. I just thought it was odd that a question that already had highly-upvoted and accepted answers was closed without comment. Personally, I find it unfortunate that the review queue just shows the questions. I usually try to open the question in a separate window and read through the answers and comments before voting to close in case my initial assumption regarding a close reason was wrong. While it could have been worded more clearly, I thought this was a pretty good question, so I hate to see new users get discouraged by having their questions closed unnecessarily. – reirab May 14 '15 at 4:30
  • @reirab Open carry is not (may not be) common where you have been. It is (very) common where I do. I, in fact, open carry more days of the year than not. – CGCampbell May 14 '15 at 17:32
  • I find it ironic that you voted to close and then gave a rather good and helpful answer right in the meta answer where you explained why you voted to close. – alx9r May 15 '15 at 13:26
  • @alx9r, good point! Answer updated. – Gayot Fow May 15 '15 at 16:01
  • @GayotFow The only reason I even mentioned laws in my comments was to point out that that's not what the question was about. As I said before, I agree that, had the question been about laws, it would have been too broad for exactly the reasons you (and others) described. Sorry if any of my comments came off as rude; that was not intended. – reirab May 15 '15 at 19:02
  • @reirab, I'll be silent the next time :) – Gayot Fow May 16 '15 at 9:43
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    @reirab Regarding the VtC queue. I usually do not open the question to view answers. Whether a question does or does not have answers, even perfectly great answers, is not the point of the queue, as I understand it and I may be wrong. Each of us who helps curate this exchange should do so to the best of our ability. The VtC queue is all about "does the question fit the scope of the site as determined by its users (through meta, help, etc.) An off-topic question with an accepted answer, is still an off-topic question...(This is about VtC's related to topicality. Not duplicates, etc. – CGCampbell May 17 '15 at 11:57
  • @CGCampbell, great comment, consider making it an answer. I agree that most users undertake the close queue with enhanced resolve and sobriety. The point is not included in any of the answers to date and perhaps should be. – Gayot Fow May 17 '15 at 17:11
  • @CGCampbell You're right about the point of the queue, of course. I often open the question anyway, though, especially if it has several upvotes and/or I'm on the edge about whether it should be closed. This is largely due to me occasionally assuming something to be too broad, etc. and then finding out from the answers that it actually isn't. That was more my point above. When it's more obvious, though, then I often don't bother opening it. There's been some discussion of this on meta SE where it was generally encouraged to do that, though I don't have time to look it up at the moment. – reirab May 17 '15 at 17:55
  • This answer is just an answer to the original question, not the meta question. If your answer to the original question is "You'll occasionally see firearms, anywhere in the country, that is a high crime ghetto" (or .. whatever) then that's a perfectly reasonable answer, which may or may not be the correct answer. The fact that this is such a completely reasonable and obvious answer to the question at hand, shows how absurd it is the question was closed. – Fattie May 24 '15 at 10:54

I did not vote to close that question, but I think it was worth closing. I still think it is an interesting question, its popularity and the number of answers clearly show this interest, and it might be worth updating the question to reopen it.

On top of that, it is not because a question is closed that it is not interesting or that answers are not appropriate. In most cases, if it is answerable, it will be answered before it is closed. And in this specific case, I am glad there were good answers before it was put on hold, and that no more answers can be posted for now, as people keep saying the same thing. I expect the question to be reopened if restricted to a smaller area, and protected so that not too many answers are posted, keeping the questions and answers focused on the topic.

After reading this Q/A and particularly your comments, I feel like this question should have been closed as subjective. The question uses subjective terms:

  • common (does it mean you cannot go in the street without seeing everyone or at least one person with a gun, does it mean you see one per month ...) is explained a bit by "can you see people carrying handguns in their belts", so we can assume that as long as there is one person in the streets, the answer is yes.
  • open-carry state is more subjective than I thought: you interpret it as state where it may be customary, not legal, to openly carry a gun. You also raise the issue that the state might not be the right scale to look at, that some areas (smaller than a state) might be open-carry, some not.

On top of the subjectivity, the question is still too broad: restricting to open-carry areas (counties or whatever, smaller than states) probably still includes many areas. I never spent a significant amount of time in the US to memorably see people carrying guns in public and judge how large this number is. But to me, something not too broad means you can enumerate the options. So unless the question enumerates the "open-carry areas", it is too broad to me.

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    No, I'm interpreting "open carry state" to mean it's legal. I interpreted his question (judging from the question itself and his other comments) to be whether people (other than police) openly carrying firearms is a common sight in the parts of the U.S. where it's legal to do so. The answer to that is generally no for all 50 states. I live in a very gun-friendly area where open carry is legal and I almost never see it in practice (i.e. I literally go years between times I see an openly-carried firearm in public.) I can't imagine a reasonable definition of 'common' where that would fit. – reirab May 14 '15 at 2:36
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    I can see how people who haven't traveled much around the U.S. might assume that this varies a lot by area based on the differences in laws in different areas, but it actually doesn't. There are very few parts of the U.S. where you would be likely to see someone (other than police) openly carrying a firearm in public in any state and those few areas are generally places that visitors don't frequent (e.g. very near the Mexican border or parts of the Alaskan wilderness where they're needed for protection against bears.) – reirab May 14 '15 at 2:48
  • It's difficult to see that rierab's comments could be any clearer. I can only completely agree with each sentence in Rierab's comments and indeed his original answer. Note that Reirab's answer on the original page, completely lays to rest the idea that the question is too "broad" (what?) or can't be answered. the question is simple and clear, and is much like when Americans ask "Will I really be abducted in Belgium?!" (after the film Taken). I reiterate that I feel the only reason the question was closed was a sort of quasi-politcal vibe. – Fattie Jul 5 '15 at 6:31

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